Digital TV will be here soon: $40 Coupons to Help Consumers With Transition

Braun HF 1, Germany, 1959

Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to eliminate good, old analog broadcast signals and has made it illegal as of February 17, 2009 onwards.  That means US consumers will receive quality digital channels from February 17, 2009, but you can’t get those signals without the right kind of TV or converter box.   There is an easy way for a fairly smooth transition — buy TV converter boxes and relax.

Here are some questions and answers for consumers pertaining to Digital TV, which will help smooth transition.

What is digital television transition?

On February 17, 2009, all full-powered television stations will begin broadcasting only in digital, as required by law.  To assist U.S. households with this historic transition, the National Telecommunication and Information Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program to help Americans continue receiving over-the-air television after February 17, 2009.

Why is television going from analog broadcasting to digital?

The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires broadcasters to broadcast only in digital after February 17, 2009.  Digital television promises to provide a clearer picture and more programming options and will free up some of the nation’s airwaves for use by emergency responders.

What is the significance of the February 17, 2009 digital TV transition date?

If households receive television programs over-the-air using “rabbit ears” or a rooftop antenna, they must take action to continue using their analog TVs after February 17, 2009. Consumers have three options, which include:

  1. buying a converter box that will plug into their current analog TV. A converter box plugs into your TV and will keep it working after Feb. 17, 2009
  2. buying a TV with a digital tuner or
  3. connect to their analog TV to cable, satellite or other pay service.

How can the public obtain a $40 coupon toward purchasing an eligible converter box?

From now through March 31, 2009, all U.S. households are able to request, on a first-come, first-served basis, up to two, $40 coupons to help pay for the cost of a certified converter box.  Converter boxes are expected to cost between $40 and $70, however, it is a one-time cost with no monthly service charges. Coupons will expire 90 days after they are mailed and cannot be replaced.

For more information about the TV Converter Box Coupon Program, or to apply for coupons, visit www.DTV2009.gov or call toll free 1-888-388-2009 (1-888-DTV-2009). The hearing impaired may call the TTY number 1-877-530-2634 for information in English, and for information in Spanish, consumers can call TTY number 1-866-495-1161. Consumers can also request and submit a coupon application by mailing PO Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208 or by faxing 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632).

Where can the public buy a coupon-eligible converter?

Coupon-eligible converter boxes are only available at certified stores and online retailers where televisions and other consumer electronics are sold, as well as by mail-order. When the coupon is mailed to you, it will include an insert with a list of nearby, participating retailers. You can also go online at www.DTV2009.gov, enter your zip code, and locate participating retailers on a map.

What can the public do to plan for the transition?

Now is the time to identify whether any TV in your home is analog and receives over-the-air programming through “rabbit ears” or a rooftop antenna. Television viewers with these sets that are not connected to a pay TV service will need to take action before February 17, 2009, to ensure their TV sets continue to work. It is important to know your options and make sure your family, friends and neighbors are aware of whether they need to take action before the transition date. The important thing is that no one is left in the dark on February 17, 2009.

Todd Sedmak
Communications Director
NTIA- US Dept of Commerce

Todd Sedmak -  A biography

Todd Sedmak is the Communications Director at Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which oversees the TV Converter Box Coupon Program.  The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is the President’s principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy issues.

Sedmak promotes President Bush’s initiative on a new Spectrum Policy for the 21st Century, the transition from analog-to-digital television, public safety interoperability communication, broadband policy, and Internet governance.

He has more than 15 years of experience working for the US Department of Commerce, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, American University and U.S. Senator Don Nickles.

He graduated from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s in journalism in 1989 and with a master’s in public communication from American University in 1996.  He and his family reside in Falls Church, Va.

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